Saturday, May 12, 2012

Pride and Joy (Marvin Gaye)

May 6-11      

  I returned from Seattle last Saturday with a new appreciation for policy making, and a temperature of 102.  I am sure I infected the whole plane and probably started a pandemic, but at the time I just thought that the last three weeks worth of miles had finally caught up with me.  It was the flu.  I have been forging ahead at a frenetic pace since January, because I know that my time is limited and I would like to leave a positive impact on education before the next TOY is announced in the fall. It has been go, go, go with a schedule that makes me tired just looking at it.  In the meantime, I feel like Cinderella at the ball, eventually midnight will hit, the magic will disappear, and my coach will turn back into a pumpkin, but I am going to savor every moment until the clock strikes 12. 
          Needless to say, my illness knocked me for a loop.  Actually it knocked me on to my couch where I stayed for a few days under orders to rest and hydrate. My mom came to the rescue and delivered some food on Sunday which was much needed, although she only dropped in quickly to escape from my plague-ridden house.  I haven't been home in three weeks and had no food in the fridge, so her delivery was much appreciated.  Thanks Mom! I also got a delivery of home-made egg rolls from my next door neighbors, who found out I was sick.  They were delicious and I really appreciated someone looking out for me.   

        Tuesday was actually Teacher Appreciation Day and I was scheduled to speak to the Burlington County Retired Education Association.  Some of my favorite people were going to be there and more than one of them had served as a mentor to me in some way, shape or form.  Just because I have been teaching a while doesn't mean I don't need a little guidance every now and again.  I began by thanking the educators in the room and acknowledged that the only reason I was where I am today is because I stand on the shoulders of some of the giants in the room.   Next was a call to arms to get involved by volunteering in their local schools and organizations.  Let's face it, with all the budget cuts, teachers are swamped and could use some help, especially from people with wisdom and experience.  I also asked the room to advocate for the profession by educating themselves on the issues and the public on what it takes to be an educator.  Teachers today have more to do than ever before, and most are so exhausted at the end of the day that they don't have the time or energy to learn about policy.  Retirees need to be our eyes, ears and advisors.

       The state Dept. of Ed also launched an Educator Spotlight page which features me as the debut educator.  I wonder how they will choose the next 11 months worth?  There was no criteria on the website. 
      Alas, no lunch invitation from the governor for Teacher Appreciation Week, but are you really surprised?  Can I tell you that when I met up with the other 53 State TOYS we all had to submit a picture of us winning our award, and I was one of the only teachers who did not have a picture with the governor. The rest of the teachers from around the country were shocked to find out that I had never met him.   Heck, I have been working a floor below the Commissioner since January and I have not had a conversation with him either.  Bad form.   Don't tell me what you value.  Show me your behavior (and budget) and I will show you what you value.  (Modified quote of Joe Biden's)

         Even the Fed's showed teacher love.  Here I am in the picture working on Project RESPECT.

      I went back to Trenton on Wednesday, particularly because I needed to go to some training I had to cancel on Monday, and managed to cough on enough people that they told me not to come back until I felt better.  Too bad the schedule was already packed for the rest of the week, and besides I was tired of staying home.  I had dinner in Princeton with a good friend on Wednesday and got to share some of my DC memories.  It still doesn't seem like it was real. 
      Thursday I managed to catch up with my friend and mentor who was responsible for getting me into teaching in the first place.  I hadn't seen him since the beginning of the year and much has changed in my life since then. But lucky for me, when you have known someone for 25 years, they don't let you take yourself too seriously.  He is my Yoda, my Jedi Master of teaching, and I always learn something when we hang out.  Lunch was good and I needed to get myself grounded after the last few weeks.
      Thursday night I joined the ladies of Delta Kappa Gamma in a dinner to award a scholarship to a young lady who will be pursuing the field of education.  It was nice to see all the ladies of DKG, and of course awarding a scholarship is always a reason to be proud.  Education is the great equalizer, and giving someone a hand so that they don't graduate with so much debt, especially an education major, can make a huge difference. 

        As part of Teacher Appreciation week, I was also featured on One on One with Steve Adubato on Thurs.  They showed a clip from Classroom Close up and then we had a nice conversation about it.  Notice my leopard print shoes.  Grrrrrr.  (I will try to get the video posted, I am having trouble downloading it.)

         Friday, it was off to Woodstown School district to check out how they were doing as one of the pilot districts for teacher evaluation.  It was nice to get to talk to people at all levels and see how they believed things were working.  It was very informational for those of us teachers who are not in the pilot, but need to make some decisions. 

      I was able to wrap up Teacher Appreciation Week by having the best night ever, at the Prom!  I promised the kids I would be there ages ago and so I donned my purple sparkly dress and headed over.  I can't tell you how good it felt to hear shrieks of "Miss D!" as I was attacked with hugs from my students.  I may have been feeling a little under the weather, but seeing those kids was just what the doctor ordered.  In the meantime, here are some pics of me with faculty members.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Sleepless in Seattle

 April 29-May 5    

 Was I only gone for two weeks?  It seemed like a lifetime.  Upon my arrival home after a week of being treated like a rock star in DC, I opened up a can of Campbell's soup (hadn't been grocery shopping in a few weeks) and began to go through my mail.  It appears that my message is beginning to get through.  This article in my local association newsletter uses one of the hooks in my speech as a call to action.  If not you, who?  If not now, when?

      After trying to wrap my head around normal life again after the week in DC, I was off to William Paterson Univ to talk to their students about teaching and offer some words of wisdom.  They were a great crowd and I had some nice conversations with several pre-service students after my talk.  I am finding that students throughout the state want so much to be inspired and given hope that they have chosen the right profession.  The worry about finding jobs and whether their passion and enthusiasm will be a good fit for the school districts they are applying to.  My universal advice, be yourself.   I discovered that William Paterson has a unique approach to student teaching where a professor is paired up with the co-operating teacher so that they can do research, publish, or work together on some project.  It is a great incentive for the co-operating teacher and gives a level connection between k-12 and higher ed that isn't found very often.  I like it!

         The next day I was off to Seattle to take part in a CCSSO conference on Educator Effectiveness. Teams are made up by the state and composed of 5 members who are supposed to represent a cross-section of policy makers and interests in education. NJ had asked me to be a part of their team and I was happy to speak on behalf of the educators in NJ.  CCSSO is also the group that sponsored the NTOY festivities in DC the week before, so I was hoping to see several of my fellow STOYs at the conference, but I was the only one.  I found this to be particularly ironic because the conference focused on classroom teachers as the cornerstone of success for our students.  Why then weren't there more of us there?  It was as I suspected after discussions with STOYs from around the country.  Many are given a ceremonial role, but not the opportunity to actually get involved in policy making.

         I was determined to speak up not only for my own colleagues, but for the STOYs who are well- versed and have been discussing many of these same issues while also experiencing the implications of policy in the classroom.  In many states, there is a huge disconnect between policy makers and educators. 

          I have my suspicions about why I was invited to be on NJ's team, as most of the team members simply knew me as the TOY, but by the time the week was done, they had met Jeanne from Jersey, the outspoken, articulate, champion of teacher voice that will not take no for an answer.  One thing we are not in NJ is shy, and I think the team appreciated the fact that I could push back, see logic, and respectfully agree to disagree.  I may even be invited back again. 

         When we arrived on May 1, some pesky anarchists had decided to go all hooligan-like and destroy some shop fronts downtown.  I am guessing my mom didn't watch the evening news that day because I didn't receive any urgent text messages demanding that I stay at the hotel.  I ran across more than my fair share of strange people downtown.  It must be the weather.  All this rain and grey would make me a little crazed too. 

While we were there I came across several people I had already met through my various STOY events.  It was nice to have a frame of reference and be able to introduce my team to some of the people I know in the education world. 

 With Michelle Shearer, 2011 NTOY, and Holly Boffy 2010 STOY from Louisiana.

It was a week of work, but I did manage to get in some play time.  The Space Needle, the original Starbucks, Pike's Market and the flagship Nordstrom were on the list.  It may have rained the whole time, but it was a good trip.  I found Nordstrom Rack and the shoe gods were pleased.

Atop the Space Needle

Pike's Market

Beautiful flowers at the market

The original Starbucks

         It was a good trip but now I am on my way home where I need to get some sleep.  It seems the miles have finally caught up with me and now I am sick.  I apologize ahead of time to anyone who catches my cold on the plane.  I will try to cough quietly.